IN IT TOGETHER David O’Reilly and Garda Kieran Shields travelled across Ireland on a tandem bike to raise money for the Irish Red Cross. Pic: Arthur Carron
A CHARITY cycle which attracted support from sporting figures across Ireland concluded on a beautiful late summer’s evening recently when childhood friends David O’Reilly and Kieran Shields pulled into Máire Luke’s in Tourmakeady to a rapturous reception from friends and locals.
David and Kieran, both originally from Bishopstown in County Cork, raised a total of €10,000 for the Irish Red Cross by cycling 600 kilometres on a tandem bike over six days.
The journey saw the two men travel the width of Ireland before concluding at Máire Luke’s where they began their challenge.
David, who has resided in the area for the past year, told The Mayo News about where the inspiration to do the cycle came from.
“Around June I saw one of the search and rescue teams in action and I was looking at all the [charity fundraisers] people were doing around the country; I decided to go the Irish Red Cross and tell them that I had an idea,” he says.
“I checked with the Gortmore community here in Tourmakeady and the gang in Marie Luke’s bar and said that I’d an idea to cycle across the country and back around Lough Mask.
“I rang my buddy Kieran, who’s a guard in Carlow, and said, ‘Let’s go on a tandem bike’.”
Sponsorship was secured from McHale Engineering while local car dealership, Freedom Mobility, provided the use of a van which was driven by Kieran’s brother.
With a specialised tandem racing bike secured from the National Council for the Blind, the campaign began to gather momentum as word spread.
Well wishes were received from Mayo sport stars Cora Staunton and Paddy Durcan, while household names like Brian Cody, Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Cork football captain Ian Maguire also lent their support.
With ‘little’ training, they set off from Máire Luke’s on a Monday morning where they were waved off by the Corrib Mask Search and Rescue team.
From there they embarked on a six-day journey through the midlands before returning home in time for the Saturday evening.
Along the way, the two men stopped in several schools where they spoke to students about the good work being done by the Irish Red Cross.
Kieran’s colleagues in An Garda Síochána kindly escorted the pair at the end of each of leg of their journey, by which time David says ‘your legs would be shagged’.
One leg of the journey had to be altered when Dublin went into level 3 Covid-19 restrictions, meaning the pair ended up stopping over in Naas and Trim instead.
Despite a tough first day of cycling, David describes that travelling the country with his friend as like an ‘adventure’ and ‘a family holiday’.
“The whole thing wasn’t as hard as I thought,” he explained.
“We were right back to when we were 12 years of age. We had some serious craic along the way. It was like being on a family holiday as kids again. We’d be fighting about stuff like where would we stop along the way.”
Having conquered hailstones on the fourth day of the challenge, they returned to the wilds of Tourmakeady under glorious sunshine on the Saturday evening.
Locals and friends who had travelled from Cork for the occasion greeted the Bishopstown natives outside Máire Luke’s bar, where the pair were served up delicious cod and steak by proprietor Barbara Philbin.
“It was a fierce rush altogether,” said David. “It was lovely seeing the Gortmore gang… coming down into Maire Luke’s car park. Knowing it was finished myself and Kieran gave ourselves a nod and wink knowing we did something that was worthwhile.”